I make additions as time permits

Legends about Nazi Germany

where they come from and why they persist

pages compiled by Harold Marcuse

(professor of German history at UC Santa Barbara)
Harold Marcuse homepage

created October 11, 2004
, updated 12/13/10

List of legends

Introduction (back to top)

There are many strange things that people believe about Nazi Germany. Since Nazism broke so many taboos and did so many utterly horrific things, people are often willing to believe even the most implausible things. But that does not mean that they are true. Most of them started as rumors during the Nazi period itself, and stayed alive because they fit with what we did know about Nazism. The pages of this site try to trace some of these legends from their origins to the present day.

Many of these issues have been taken up by people who claim that the Holocaust, the intentional German mass murder of Jews, did not happen. They argue that because these marginal issues were exaggerated, therefore the entire genocide is exaggerated. This argument is utterly illogical and false, as many websites and good books easily show. (The website nizkor.org does this systematically for 66 claims by deniers.) I don't think we need to waste more time dealing with such Holocaust deniers. I think it is more interesting and fruitful to understand why so many of us believe in such things, and what those beliefs reveal about our relationship to the past.

Legends (back to top)

  • The "Battle of Langemarck" in World War I: did the German youths win on Nov. 10, 1914?
  • Dachau gas chamber. (begun Oct. 2004)
    Did the US army force German prisoners of war to build the Dachau crematorium after the war? Absolutely not. The crematorium building was begun in the summer of 1942 and completed in 1943. Many letters, blueprints, photographs and much testimony prove this beyond a doubt. The building contained not only the furnace room, but also a morgue to store corpses prior to cremation, four small chambers for fumigating (gassing) clothing to kill lice, an undressing/waiting room, and one gas chamber room designed to murder human beings. As far we know, from the testimony of prisoner-doctor Frantisek Blaha who was required to perform autopsies on the victims, the gas chamber was tested on two small groups of prisoners, but never used for murder by gassing after that. The furnaces, however, were used to cremate many thousands of corpses, of inmates who had been executed by shooting, hanging and torture, or died of starvation and diseases, which often reached epidemic proportions in the camp.
  • Hitler's Jewish ancestry. See the timeline on my Hitler in History page.
    Was Hitler part Jewish? (Was Hitler's father the illegitimate son of a Jew who got his grandmother pregnant?) No. His grandmother did work as a maid in a Jewish household, but her son (Hitler's father) was born while she was living with a non-Jewish Austrian who raised the boy. When that man died, Hitler 's father was adopted by the biological father's brother, further evidence that the former Jewish employer did not impregnate the grandmother.
  • Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. See the project by my student Jose DelaCruz.
    They are a well-known fake and forgery. Jose's page is nicely illustrated--tracing the spread of the fiction. He shows (as the London Times did in 1921), that the Protocols are a 1905 plagiarism by Sergyei Nilus, of an anonymously published 1864 book titled Dialogues in Hell (the author is now known to be Maurice Joly). Jose compares text passages from the two books.
  • Soap from human fat. [page updated 12/13/10]
    Was human body fat used to make soap? Never on a mass scale, although some experiments were probably performed. Even Himmler believed that his scientists might be doing this, so he ordered them to stop. Read Polish independent scholar Joachim Neander's research (in German): full paper with footnotes; oral version for the Oct. 2004 German Studies Association conference. Pdf of English version from Feb. 2006 German Studies Review.
  • Stab in the Back Legend. See my review of Boris Barth's 2004 book about it for details.
    Did Germany lose World War I because of betrayal?

Links (back to top)

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page created by H. Marcuse on October 14, 2004. updated 12/28/06, still under construction
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